South Carolina

Trump opens 2024 presidential run, says he’s ‘more committed’ than ever

COLUMBIA, SC — Former President Donald Trump kicked off his 2024 White House candidacy with weekend stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Events in early-voting states marked the first campaign appearances since announcing its last run more than two months ago.

“Together we will close the unfinished business of making America great again,” Trump said at an evening event in Columbia to introduce his South Carolina leadership team.

Trump and his allies hope events in states with tremendous power in choosing the candidate will provide a show of force behind the former president after a slow start to his campaign that has seen many question his commitment to running again.

“They said, ‘He doesn’t do rallies, he doesn’t campaign. Maybe he lost that step,'” Trump said at the New Hampshire GOP’s annual meeting in Salem, his first event.

But he told the audience of party leaders, “I’m more angry now and more committed than ever.” In South Carolina, he further dismissed the speculation by saying that “we have huge rallies planned, bigger than ever.”

While Trump has largely spent the months since his announcement at his Florida club and nearby golf course, his aides insist they have been busy behind the scenes. His campaign opened a headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida and hired staff. And in recent weeks, supporters have turned to political activists and elected officials to garner support for Trump at a critical juncture when other Republicans are preparing their own awaited challenges.

In New Hampshire, Trump promoted his campaign agenda, including immigration and crime, and said his policies are the opposite of President Joe Biden’s. He cited the Democrats’ move to change the election calendar, which cost New Hampshire its leading spot, and accused Biden, a fifth-place finisher in New Hampshire in 2020, of “nefariously destroying this beloved political tradition.”

“I hope you will remember this during the general election,” Trump told party members. Trump himself won the primary twice, but lost the state to the Democrats each time.

Later in South Carolina, Trump said he plans to keep the state’s presidential primary as “first in the South,” calling it “a very important state.”

In his speech, he rushed from criticizing Biden and the Democrats to derogatory comments about transgender people, mockery of people promoting the use of electric stoves and electric cars, and recalled efforts as president to increase oil production, secure trade deals and to crack on migration at the US-Mexico border.

While Trump remains the only declared presidential candidate for 2024, potential challengers are expected to include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations , will launch their campaigns in the coming months.

After his speech in South Carolina, Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press that it would be “a great act of disloyalty” for DeSantis to defy him in the primary and recognize the governor’s first pick.

“If he runs, that’s fine. I’m high in the polls,” Trump said. “He’ll have to do what he wants, but he might run away. I think it would be a major act of disloyalty because, you know, I brought him in. He didn’t stand a chance. His political life was over.”

He said he hasn’t spoken to DeSantis in a long time.

On Saturday, Trump also discussed that footage of Tire Nichols’ brutal beating by five Memphis police officers was “terrible” and that the attack “should never have happened.”

“I thought it was terrible. He was in such trouble. He just got beaten. Well, that should never have happened,” Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, a day after authorities released footage of the attack on the 29-year-old black man after a traffic stop. Nichols died three days later.

The comments were notable for Trump, who is running again for the White House and has a history of encouraging the harsh treatment of people in police custody. He served as president during the racial justice protests that occurred in the summer of 2020 following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. At the time, he signed an executive order calling for better police practices, but failed to recognize systemic racial prejudice.

Trump ultimately focused his 2020 reelection bid on a “law and order” message that emphasized support for law enforcement.

Newly released video of violence in Memphis shows police holding and beating Nichols with their fists, boots and batons for three minutes. Footage shows police yelling profanities at him while Nichols yells for his mother. Trump said Nichols’ call for his mother was “a very sad moment.”

“That was really the point that moved me the most, to be honest,” he said.

Trump did not refer to the video in his campaign speeches in New Hampshire or South Carolina, the first stages of his 2024 presidential campaign.

A sixth officer with the Memphis Police Department was also discharged from duty, officials said Monday, but his role in the caning was not disclosed.

The Nichols family’s legal team has compared it to the infamous 1991 police crackdown on motorist Rodney King in Los Angeles.

Trump said Memphis police are taking a “strong step” by disbanding the police unit involved in the attack, which was created to target violent offenders in high-crime areas.

“Look, the tape might not have been entirely conclusive, but to me it was pretty conclusive and it was vicious and violent and hard to believe — because of a traffic violation,” he said.

The renewed questions about how fatal encounters with law enforcement continue to occur following repeated calls for change and a statewide reckoning and review of policing following Floyd’s murder. At the time, Trump condemned the murder, but also protests that were largely peaceful, albeit overshadowed by outbreaks of violence.

Trump tweeted about “thugs” at the Minneapolis protests and warned, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter labeled the message as glorifying violence, and Trump tried to retract the comments.

As several thousand people demonstrated in Lafayette Park across from the White House, US park police violently dispersed them with tear gas and lightning bolts just before Trump walked through the park for a photo op near St. John’s Church, where he stood in front of cameras a Bible.

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